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Dubai Vacation Can End Up in Jail Because of the UAE Cybercrime Law

News These days, many travelers think of leaving their usual places and enjoy a vacation in the warm and hospitable UAE. While selecting a suitable hotel in Dubai, it is also advisable to check some of the emirate’s laws as a dream vacation might turn into a nightmare, same as it happened with British Yaseen Killick.

Not many tourists know that angry texting can result in a jail sentence in Dubai. Killick was not aware of the cybercrime law as well when he sent his messages to a used car dealer. The dealer cheated Killick, so the latter sent him a number of messages, asking “how do you sleep at night…?” and expressing dissatisfaction with the service. When Yaseen was returning home with his wife Robyn, he was seized at Dubai airport and then put to jail for three weeks. The man spent Christmas in prison and then was kicked out of Dubai.

As the messages were sent through WhatsApp, they fall under the UAE cybercrime law that marks “insulting or accusing another person online” as a crime. Therefore, Yaseen was charged in accordance with the law and no investigation was made about the validity of his claim about the dealer. CEO of Detained in Dubai, Radha Stirling, mentions that it’s very simple for tourists in Dubai to break the emirate’s law without even knowing they do something wrong, and the cybercrime law makes everyone a potential criminal.

Not only an angry text message can potentially bring a person to jail in the UAE, but also a negative online review of a restaurant, shop, Dubai hotel or any other business. It is illegal to criticize or express dissatisfaction in any form with a company or a person online as this can be considered an insult and the person accused will have virtually no chance to defend or explain the criticism. Comments might be also misunderstood and there is a growing number of police reports about something that would be ignored in other countries. Finally, the cybercrime law works extraterritorially and retroactively. That means that even a person who said something online many years ago and in another country can be still charged.

Yaseen Killick is not the only victim of the law. The cases like this are not uncommon in the emirate. For example, David Haigh of Stirling Haigh had to spend six months in prison because of accusations against his former employer on Twitter. In 2016, a man was accused of insulting a woman in Sharjah and subsequently fined Dh250,000. She took WhatsApp messages to the police and filed a report. In Abu Dhabi, an Australian woman who posted a photo of a car parked across two spaces for disabled drivers on her closed Facebook page also ended up in prison. These are not all cases of foreigners who suffered from the law, so tourists who plan to enjoy a vacation in Dubai need to be careful.


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